Data Science, Technology and Innovation: A collaborative online learning programme

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Credit: NicoElNino

The Data Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI) programme is a University-wide collaborative postgraduate online learning programme with courses contributed from across all three Colleges within the University of Edinburgh. DSTI has been running since January 2016, and student numbers continue to grow each year, with 145 students currently enrolled. Flexibility is at the heart of the programme which offers inter-disciplinary courses from across the University. The programme was designed by collaborating academics who recognised there was a risk of duplication across the University, as data science is relevant and important to so many disciplines.

The Model

There are currently 27 courses available in the growing portfolio, with dissertations options available from across the University. Some of the contributing courses were developed from scratch for contribution to DSTI. Others existed as online courses within other programmes and are still taught in parallel with students on other programmes. Some flipped classroom courses were modified for online delivery and are taught with both online and on-campus students as part of the course group.

Hosted by the College of Science and Engineering (CSE), all courses contributed to the programme are approved within each School’s Board of Studies then reviewed for inclusion into DSTI by the Programme Oversight Committee. Delivery and assessment remains with each School/Deanery, and the fee income is distributed to each School/Deanery on a per-student basis. The small CSE funded Programme Team (managing marketing and programme level student support) is located in the Bayes Centre, with admissions processed by the Recruitment and Admissions Team within CSE.

Bayes Centre. Credit: Teresa Ironside

We offer a suite of online postgraduate programmes:

  • MSc (180 credits)
  • MSc Specialisms – currently Medical Informatics with additional specialisms in development (180 credits)
  • Postgraduate Diploma (120 credits)
  • Postgraduate Certificate (60 credits)
  • Single Courses can also be studied via Postgraduate Professional Development (PPD) (up to 50 credits)

Student experience

Through DSTI, experts in their field teach data science curriculum to students with a range of backgrounds. With multiple entry points via PPD, students can join the programme at any course start date throughout the year, with the option to transfer to the Certificate, Diploma, or Masters degree the following September. The modular framework enables students to create their own path through the programme, with advice available from their Personal Tutor. They may choose a pathway through an existing MSc Specialism or build their course selections as they study and explore new areas. Many of the current students are up-skilling to develop their current career while they work, others are planning a career change, exploring options as they study. With the majority of students on the programme being working professionals, the part-time intermittent structure of the programme works well and provides flexibility to study at postgraduate level without having to pause their career.

Student feedback on the range of courses available has been very positive, and we are working with Schools who currently contribute, as well as additional Schools, to bring in new courses. The portfolio of courses has grown each year of the programme to date.

Collaborative Working

Course Organiser meetings are held to share best practice and discuss course development as student numbers grow. Scalability of delivery and assessment is often a topic of discussion as technology develops in line with our growing programme.

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Credit: Ali Kremen Yücel

Collaboration is also key amongst the students and, as the cohort continues to grow, the network for the students will also develop into what we hope to be a strong professional alumni network. Programme and course discussion boards encourage interaction between students from across the globe, and the relationships they build as they move through the programme will hopefully establish a strong professional network going forward. We plan to foster this networking as the young programme continues to develop. We look forward to following the success of the students.

Teresa Ironside

Teresa Ironside MBA is Head of Online Learning Development for the College of Science and Engineering and, more recently, the Director of Education for the Bayes Centre, one of the new University of Edinburgh data science hubs. Working in a range of roles across the University over the past 11 years, she looks forward to playing a key role in delivering the University and City Region Deal ambitions related to Data Driven Innovation.

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